Each year around this time, our host country goes all out to celebrate its major holiday Holi. It is not lost on me that rituals focused largely on idol worship and pagan promises of prosperity bear a name that conveys the opposite of what is truly going on. It is difficult to express just how the forces of darkness war against my soul during this particular season. I can only imagine how much more intense this battle must be for those who have only known life in a culture completely enveloped by Hinduism.
Difficult though this time may be, it provides a wonderful opportunity for the Christian community to minister to the body. How encouraging it is to pull away from the places where temptation towards idolatry is the strongest and band together to worship the One true God! It is for that reason a veteran cross-cultural worker has set apart this nation-wide holiday to hold a men’s conference each year. As we joined the work, my husband started attending this conference, bringing believers along with him as our fellowships began to grow.
My husband felt strongly convicted to battle the forces of evil with the collective worship of Jesus and thus intentioned to attend. At the same time, he agonized over leaving his wife in tears, anticipating the difficulty of the days ahead. We committed to trust the Lord with the safety and spiritual renewal for his trip and for the care and keeping of my soul as I stayed behind.
After a day of running around the city in an effort to avoid our neighbors’ celebrations at home complete with a tribe of dancers and a hired guru, we returned home to rest. As bells rang, fireworks shot off, and unintelligible chants swam through our windows from all directions, I attempted to settle my kids for bed. Tired as they were, extended sleep, I realized was a dream not to be realized.
As soon as pale lids closed softly in surrender to sleep, our gate creaked open as a shouting drunk stumbled in demanding financial contribution to his evening’s endeavors. My babies’ eyes rocketed back open. Tears just as unwelcome as our front-gate visitor appeared beneath my lids as I vigorously batted them away. This is too hard.
This was bigger than getting restless children to bed. The ache in my chest and the restlessness of my soul were indicative of spiritual forces at work around me. The chaos of getting children to bed amid the din of riotous celebrations mirrored the revolution going on in my heart as I fought to “cast down imaginations…and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The flashing lights that hung on ever house to summon the goddess of wealth to come bearing gifts did nothing to lift the dark cloud hovering over my soul. I prayed and slept in short intervals until finally new mercies found daylight. Golden rays slipped between the gaps in the curtains we used to separate us from the world the night before. I pulled them slowly apart. There was stillness in the street. Though the smell of incense lingered and some holiday lights had been left on, there was little evidence of all that had been done in the darkness. I drank my morning cup in peace, whispering prayers of thanks for the hope I have not in a yearly visit from a revered goddess but in a living God who loves me and sees me in the middle of the darkest night.
We moved from the hub of the city to a more rural location last year. Holi came a few months later, and my experience was totally different. It was quiet, still — at least near my home. We had walked to the town square for bread and saw the crowd, the lights, and the decorations hinting at the evening’s events. We passed busy shops shelling out plastic bags of colored powders, copper vessels, and candles manipulated in a precise manner to appease demanding divinities. I knew what was going on, but this time, I had a peaceful place to retreat.
Although the group of teens staying in the Camp lodging below our apartment made far too much noise for me to get any quality of sleep, my children slept soundly. Bedtime was a breeze, and our prayers were not drowned out by chanting and bells. Dinner was even provided for us by the team of cooks serving up food downstairs. Best of all, instead of all the clamor of the Hindu celebrations, I heard the beautiful sound of raised voices worshiping God. The contrast brought me to my knees in thankfulness and joy. Goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes spoke what I couldn’t quite articulate. This is too good.
When God put the idea for a Bible camp on our hearts, we weren’t sure what it would all mean. For one night a year, I know, it is truly a safe place for me and for the believers gathered below my little home. I can’t get over that the Lord would gift this to me as a reward for a shaky “yes” to an intimidating new ministry venture and an unusual living situation. I can see how the Lord will use this property to draw people away from worldly influence and nearer to Him. How LOUD our praise can be we can be when we aren’t competing with pagan worship from every side!
This seclusion is our sanctuary. Though we enter into the darkness to pull people out as the Lord allows, we can always retreat to a place of worship, a place set aside for the Lord to speak to us. May my home provide refuge for my family and all those who enter in. I pray my heart will be at rest even on the hardest days of life and ministry in a place that can feel completely devoid of His presence. I carry His presence with me in the quietness of my home and the stillness of my heart. Its volume can fill the void and cover the noise. Oh, God, I pray it would.